Streetwise Professor

September 1, 2010

Kudrin Says: Drink, Smoke and Pay to Make Babies!

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:01 pm

Although by some measures (such as debt-to-GDP and deficit-to-GDP ratios) Russia’s fiscal situation appears favorable relative to that of the United States, for a variety of reasons, and for now, the US can finance its massive and burgeoning spending in a way that Russia cannot match.  The fiscal strain in Russia, with a deficit of 5.4 percent of GDP, is forcing Finance Minister Alexi Kudrin to search for ways to plug the gap.

For one, he is encouraging bad habits–like cigarette and alcohol consumption  (H/T S/O):

Smoke and drink more, Russia’s finance minister Alexei Kudrin urged citizens on Wednesday, explaining that higher consumption would help lift tax revenues for spending on social services.

“If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates,” Kudrin said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

“People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” he said, offering unconventional advice as the Russian government announced plans to raise excise duty on alcohol and cigarettes.

In present value terms, this is definitely a loser, even when evaluated from the narrow perspective of government funding, and ignoring the total costs to the Russian population.  The present value of the future costs to government revenue resulting from greater consumption of these goods, in terms of early mortality (and the consequent loss in earnings–and hence taxes) and greater health care expenditures almost certainly exceed the value of the short term revenue jolt this higher consumption would provide.

It is also sad to see Kudrin sink to Orwellian arguments like: “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates.”  Translation: kill yourself so we can pay others to have babies!

Huh?  And come on: these measures are necessary to pay for existing programs, not to pay for new initiatives.

But the financing constraints of the Russian government (which reflect, in large part, the nation’s perceived unreliability as a political risk) and the relentless presentism of the government (which I’ve written about before, and which arises from a variety of causes) mean that Kudrin has to let the future care of itself.

How nice.  It’s also interesting to note how Kudrin has learned his lesson from Gorbachev and Perestroika.  Gorbachev cratered the USSR’s already shaky financial condition (with oil revenues down due to plunging prices and plunging production, and imports up due to agricultural failures) by cracking down on vodka sales.  Less vodka sales, less taxes.  Another nail in the Soviet coffin.  Kudrin isn’t going to repeat that mistake!

Moreover, the fiscal crunch is also driving the prospects for the sales of stakes in Russian state companies, like bank VTB, and Rosneft.  This initiative is on the slow track, however, with an announcement that there will be no sales in 2010, and no decisions have been made about what firms, and how much of them will be sold in in 2011 and beyond.

Here Russia’s reputation again is hurting it.  The Russian government will retain control of the corporations, and given protections for minority shareholders, and the prospect for re-nationalization (on dictated terms) at some future date, mean that the price the country would get is likely to be discounted heavily.  Put differently, this is not a conviction privatization, driven by a recognition that reducing government ownership and control would improve efficiency; it is a desperation sell-the-family-jewels-gambit where the buyer realizes that he doesn’t get them free and clear and may have to sell them back at an unfavorable price later.  Thus Russia is unlikely to get the price that it wants, but may be forced to sell anyways even at a big discount to meet its pressing fiscal demands.

Some folks have pretty much figured this out:

Troika Dialog economist Anton Strutchenevsky said the lack of certainty in the government’s position is evidence of the fact that the government sees privatization as an ad-hoc measure, necessitated by the need to fill the black hole caused by the shortfall in budget inflows of oil money. “If, hypothetically, the price of oil jumps to $100 per barrel today, the government will trash all these privatization plans,” Strutchenevsky said. He pointed to another “weak point in the program,” which he said makes the whole scheme looks like half-measures. “The state will continue to control and manage most of the enterprises and corporations slated for privatization, since it will retain some 50 percent plus share in most of them,” he said. “You cannot privatize without transfer of some ownership and control. Few investors want to sleep in bed with a government that makes all the investment decisions.”

So, Russia is in the situation where its fiscal choices include inducing the population to kill and incapacitate itself more quickly in order to raise more taxes today, and selling shares in state companies at big discounts that reflect its inability to credibly protect the buyers.  With the price of oil drifting lower the pressure to make these unpalatable choices have only increased.

The best BRIC.  Ha!

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36 Comments »

  1. “The present value of the future costs to government revenue resulting from greater consumption of these goods, in terms of early mortality (and the consequent loss in earnings–and hence taxes)”

    This is a questionable statement. It assumes that taxes come in some proportional way from individuals’ incomes. Given Russia’s reliance on (state/oligarch-controlled) oil and gas to fill the coffers, the connection between population loss and tax loss is not that obvious. In the current strain, Kudrin is essentially trying to convert otherwise useless assets (human lives) into cash. Makes all the economic sense in the world, if the assets were of different nature. But then again, human lives has been the most expendable resource throughout Russian history.

    Comment by Ivan — September 2, 2010 @ 2:05 am

  2. Even Soviet Russia, at its worst as a police state regime, never: -programmed its majority for genocide -pampered and supported lazy , racist parasitical minorities -allowed affirmative action, political correctness, foreign ideologies to publicly enlist Soviets in subversion schemes, a media that blatantly hated the majority, the elevation of the crudest and most incompetent “art” imaginable, national support of anti-culture, segregated all-african sports teams, money gouging by rich marxist-capitalists, forced sensitivity groups, discrimination against its best and brightest,dumbing down of schools to appease the moronic, a military that cannot win wars against even irregulars -subversion by primitive, medieval muslims. Soviet communism actually offered a form of tyranny that was more humane than the AfroAmerican brand of communism. Do not lie about what I have said. I have lived in Soviet Russia, you bastards.
    Is there anyone out there who would work with me to replace AfroAmerican communism with Soviet communism?

    Comment by Jack Sigil — September 2, 2010 @ 6:49 am

  3. I was wondering if SWP would:

    1) Condemn – or at least criticize – Kudrin for his idiotic remarks and chronic inability to look beyond his ledger.

    2) Make a disjointed argument that this proves the Russian state wants more deaths-for-taxes for make benefit of the Kremlin – even though taxes on vodka and cigs are a miniscule proportion of total revenues.

    I guess now we know.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 2, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

  4. SWP:

    Moscow police read opposition e-mails then arrest opposition activists preemptively to block “illegal” exercise of constitutional rights.

    http://olegkozlovsky.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/moscow-police-we-read-opposition-activists-e-mails/

    I was wondering if SUBLIME LIAR would condemn, or at least criticize, this outrageous and barbaric emasculation of the law in Putin’s Russia.

    I guess now we know.

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 2, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  5. SWP:

    About the preemptive arrests – well – Why on earth would Sublime Oblivion condemn, cr even criticize a police practice taken against protesters in Russia that is already a regular practice in the West – the USA, UK, and EU all, themselves, outrageously and barbarically emasculating the liberal democratic laws and principles of the ‘freedom of assembly’ that they preach to others? Double standards again, anyone? Do as we say..not as we do (always)
    UK – http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/13/nottingham-police-raid-environmental-campaigners
    USA – http://www.commondreams.org/further/2009/09/02-0
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2008/08/30/police_raids
    EU – http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/4809854-the-preemptive-arrests-of-1200-protestors/content/44372852-danish-police-engage-in-preemptive-mass-arrests-at-climate-change-conference

    Comment by Mark Sleboda/the Scythian — September 3, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  6. Although by some measures (such as debt-to-GDP and deficit-to-GDP ratios) Russia’s fiscal situation appears favorable relative to that of the United States, for a variety of reasons, and for now, the US can finance its massive and burgeoning spending in a way that Russia cannot match.

    Can you imagine the amount of blood that will be spilled all over the World when the US borrowing bubble finally bursts? The Great Depression gave rise to Hitler. The new burst will be 1000 times worse. Will humankind be able to survive?

    It kind of makes us proud that it is our American greed that will end the human civilization.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — September 4, 2010 @ 2:42 am

  7. Moreover, it ain’t him, Obama is saying: it’s the anxious times in the country.

    Really? What a moron? Why would he say that?! Our economy has been blooming since 2008. The unemployment is lower than it was at the height of the Great Depression. The economy collapse will not happen for a few more months. The consumer confidence may be at the all-time low, but it is not nearly as low as it will be next year. So who in America is anxious?

    It is the times like this that we all wish that stupid Democrats like Clinton (with his sub-180 IQ) and Obama were replaced by Republican geniuses like Bush Jr with IQ over 90 (exactly half of Clinton’s, BTW).

    Comment by Laszlo Tooth Jr. — September 4, 2010 @ 2:55 am

  8. raising excise duty on alcohol and cigarettes will reduce consumption of these items. Kudrin may be cynical, but he does the right thing.
    Personally I prefer him to guys like Putin who can talk nice and act cynically.

    Comment by a.russian — September 4, 2010 @ 4:28 am

  9. @Mark,
    Thanks for saving me the trouble of replying.
    (Not that I would have, since with LR it goes in circles – as is typical of “discussions” with loons).

    @a.russian,
    No, from the article it appears Kudrin wants to have the best of both worlds: (1) more excise duties on alcohol and cigarettes, (2) Russians continuing to buy alcohol and cigs in previous quantities for a (very small) improvement in the budget deficit.
    This of course defeats the entire purpose of the tax, which is primarily aimed at cutting these social vices, not bringing in more money. That is because Kudrin values money over people’s health like the one-dimensional accountant he is.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — September 4, 2010 @ 5:01 am

  10. Alcoholism fight may be dangerous here in Russia- as Gorbachev could tell- so I think that Kudrin tried to make the rise of vodka price not so unpopular as in 80’s. Some sort of PR, rather ugly, I agree- but he is the finance minister and not Minister of Truth as most of his colleagues in this our government.

    Comment by a.russian — September 4, 2010 @ 5:07 am

  11. @mark

    From one of your links

    The arrests – for conspiracy to commit criminal damage and aggravated trespass – come amid growing concern among campaigners about increased police surveillance and groups being infiltrated by informers.

    Nottinghamshire police said the raid on an independent school in Nottingham was made just after midnight this morning. The force said it seized “specialist equipment” thought to be linked to a planned protest at nearby Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, a coal plant owned by the utility company E.On.

    No group has claimed responsibility for the alleged demonstration.

    Experienced campaigners said no group had claimed responsibility for the alleged demonstration because they could face charges of conspiracy and a possible jail sentence.

    Activists said emails setting out planned action could be used by police to prove conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage, as could any equipment or documentation found during the arrests, or other evidence of coordinated preparations.

    An intent to break into private property and commit acts of industrial sabotage or vandalism is not “peaceful protest”.

    It is a world away from peacefully protesting in a public place and having your head bashed in by Russian OMON goons.

    Then there is the widespread use of torture in Russian detention.

    Comment by Andrew — September 4, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  12. MARK:

    I’m always absolutely delighted when somebody admits America should be the standard for Russia. Thank you so much!!!

    So now we agree that since Russia hasn’t exchanged power between rival political parties, it’s a political failure.

    And since Russians live years shorter than Americans, it’s a biological failure.

    And since the American per capita GDP is many times larger than Russia’s, it’s an economic failure.

    And since American food and clothes and movies are immeasurably preferred by the world to Russian variants, it’s a social failure too.

    So I’m sure you’ll agree with us at LR that Russia needs immediate regime change, right?

    Good to have you with us!

    Comment by La Russophobe — September 4, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  13. @Andrew
    ‘An intent to break into private property and commit acts of industrial sabotage or vandalism is not “peaceful protest”.’ You picked the one example out of the ones that I provided (the American and EU ones have no such excuse) where the police in the UK have at least gone to the trouble to have makee false accusations and spread misinformation ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/aug/18/comment.transport1 ) in order to provide justification for crackdowns on peaceful protesters. This unfortunately has become standard practice in the UK where the police system have redefined all protesters as “domestic extremists” as the political concensus over climate change causing consumer capitlalism has collapsed.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/18/police-protest-freedom-of-speech
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/23/activists-conservation-police

    Police have even established units for routine police spying and infiltration of environemntal protest groups.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/feb/13/george-monbiot-police-protestors
    Britain has become an Orwellian police state with Big Brother video surveillance on every corner, and where all political dissent is suppressed.
    http://www.salaam.co.uk/themeofthemonth/january03_index.php?l=61%82%22=0

    Much like the US that routinely that has established a police state that spies on peace groups that dare to protest against America’s aggressive imperialist wars.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10965509/site/newsweek/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10454316/
    http://boingboing.net/2010/02/25/pentagon-fesses-up-t.html

    The police harassement and false statements about peaceful climate protesters in the UK has been well documented. Here is the “equipment” that the police confiscated and were using as false justification for harrassment and arrests of climate protesters at the Kingsnorth protest previously mentioned.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfaCdQHnIs0&feature=channel
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig31yWIWKUo&feature=channel

    And here is the damages the police were eventually forced to pay for their harassment in a rare victory in the courts
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/14/police-compensation-kingsnorth-climate-protesters

    However, even where police violence against protesters has resulted in deaths, like Ian Tomlinson, the police have used internal tribunals to “investigate themselves” and gotten away without any punishment or cost. The system and society looks the other way…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jul/22/ian-tomlinson-police-not-charged

    Police brutality towards peaceful protesters has become the standard in the UK. You can watch for yourself.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t244-zEENSs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wF-YtJjBTA

    As in the US.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S3q3HbhcRM

    In Canada police police have even been repeatedly caught infiltrating peaceful protest groups with agents acting as provacateurs to start violence and riots in order to provide justification for cracking down on protests.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyhsY26PQmQ
    Even during protests against the Olympics!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyhsY26PQmQ

    But even when officalh ethics investigations nothing is done and the mainstream media largely ignores it.

    That is because in the West we have contructed a false and comforting narrative about “freedom” and “deomcracy” in our societies. We have come to believe this myth at all levels of our society from the government to the media and the general public so that even in the face of direct contradiction the totalitarianism of it becomes self-propogating.

    *** If you watch one peace of evidence I have provided here to justify my accusations about rhetorical hypocrisy of the West towards the orchestrated Strategy 31 protests in Russia – watch this one. This video shows the true face of protests and “freedom of assembly” in the West – at the Copenhagen Climate Conference which all of the world’s leaders attended. I can attest because I was there – as an official delegate inside the conference, and then when it became obvious that the world’s leaders would do nothing accept a desperate face-saving measure instead of acting to change our unsustainable capitlist consumer economies that are destroying our planet in a hurry – I and many other delegates walked out and joined the protesters on the street. This is what we saw – and as cynical as I am, I was shocked and mortified at the level of stormtrooper-like used by Western police against peacefully protesting youth in order to enforce the existing political and economic consensus.
    *** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zC7F-KGn3w

    The police in Russia are doing nothing of the sort of this type of sustained and systematic brutality against peaceful protesters. If they were – it would be all over the world’s press in an instant. But when it happens in our own Western coutnries – the media looks the other way and ignores it.

    And the police violence and harrassment at the protests that I have shown – including the last one at Copenhagen were at legally sanctioned a protests. The Strategy 31 protests were civilly broken up by police because they were protesting illegally. They were issued permits to protest at other locations in downtown Moscow every time – but they refuse them. Why? Because protesting is not their aim. Provocation is. Their acts are not directed at Russian society where they have no support (The Russian liberals have an ill-disguised loathing for the Russian people as a whole because they are not “Western” enough for them) but at the West’s press. That is why the protests draw a hundred or two hundred protests at most – and twice as many journalists and camera’s to cover it and observe the Russian police arresting the liberal celebrity ringleaders. There is no “torture” involved against protesters, that is a false accusation. The liberals would be all over the Western press in a second if it were so. The Strategy 31 protests in Russia are a staged spectacle – and those detained have been released every time after only a couple of hours and been home safe in bed in time for milk and cookies.

    There is also the fact that the handful of perennial liberals in Russia now rebranded as Strategy 31 are protesting for some senseless reason alongside Limonov – presumably because the National Bolsheviks are capable of drawing more support and protesters (no matter how miniscule that is) onto the streets then themselves. The National Bolsheviks are a very real violent terrorist and anarchist group. Limonov having done prison time for admittedly trying to start a Nationalist Russian military insurrection in Kazakhstan and repeated violent and destructive actions taken by Natzbol anarchists. So in Russia, the police have reason to be cautious with Strategy 31…

    Comment by Mark Sleboda/the Scythian — September 4, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  14. @ Laszlo – the Bush vs. Clinton IQ’s was from a hoax website (“Lovenstein Institute”). Based on his SAT score (SATs are highly correlated with IQ – 80% or so of one’s IQ score can be predicted based on SAT) Bush’s IQ, based on his SAT score of 1206, is about 120-125 – in the top 5% of the US population. One can assume some cognitive decline due to all of Bush’s massive drinking, but despite his inability to speak well and many of his poor decisions as president, Bush was not an idiot. In comparison, Al Gore’s SAT score of 1355 gives him an IQ somewehre in the upper 130’s – top 1% of the population.

    Comment by AP — September 4, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  15. @SWP,

    Re-postcards from Norilsk – here you go! 😉

    http://www.arcticprogress.com/blog/

    Comment by Sublime Progress — September 4, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  16. If you want one single piece of evidence that Bush was not a complete idiot, it is the fact that he was a pilot of the F-102 aircraft, a single seat Century Series fighter which was notoriously dangerous and difficult to fly. This does not make him a genius, but it is evidence enough that he is not thick.

    In fact, evidence abounds that he is not thick (see here for example). The only reason he is called such is because idiot lefties could not manage to mount a credible argument against his policies* and instead concentrated on the way he speaks in public, which of course is an oh-so reliable indicator of intelligence and ability! I’ve met so many pig-ignorant people who smugly start laughing at how thick Bush is whilst dismissing any evidence that he is nothing of the sort, preferring instead to believe internet rumours of his not being able to pronounce a word or not knowing some obscure European politician. Bush was successful for the same reason Khrushchev was: everybody dismissed him, underestimated him, and ultimately never figured out how to deal with him.

    * Which should have been easy, most of his policies were blooming awful. That the left were unable to oppose them properly and had to resort to 8 years of ad hominem abuse spoke volumes. And not much has changed: instead of “Bush is thick” their refrain is “You’re all racist.”

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 4, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

  17. Although Bush was clearly not an idiot, an argument can certainly be made that with an IQ of 125 (top 5% of the population) he wasn’t intelligent enough to be qualified to run the country, given that 1 in 20 Americans or more than 15 million Americans are more intelligent than he is. I would take a lot of comments about Bush’s supposed idiocy to be comparable to people’s critiques of professional sports players’ incompetance. When some guy on a sofa says that Rex Grossman is inconsistant and sucks, this does not mean that the guy criticising the former Bears quarterback is a better football player or would be capable of taking the field in his place. It means that for someone in his position, Grossman has been dissapointing. Likewise, given Bush’s numerous, sometimes collossal, blunders it would seem to be fair to consider him “stupid” for a man in his job even if he is smarter than 19 out fo 20 people in the general population.

    Comment by AP — September 5, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  18. I don’t think you need to be terribly smart to run a country, certainly not a genius. You need some clever people around you, but the traits which IMO are needed for effective leadership and governance do not require a particularly high IQ. Indeed, I think being too clever hampers decision making. I see much the same thing in engineering projects. Whatever Bush’s faults, and they were many, his not having a high enough IQ for the job was not one of them.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 5, 2010 @ 9:48 am

  19. Sorry, didn’t quite finish: I cannot think of any of Bush’s blunders which meant anything which were a result of his not being clever enough. We’ve now got the oh-so-clever Obama, and he appears to have no idea how to lead or govern.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 5, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  20. @ Tim, I didn’t claim that a high degree of intelligence was both necessary and sufficient to lead a country. Certainly other qualities are also important. Bush’s example seems to show that a high degree of intelligence is at least necessary. Apparently Bush has among the lowest IQ’s of any US president, as discussed in the first part of this link (the Lovenstein Institute hoax is also discussed there):

    http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/users/gary/iq.html

    Bush seems to have been a poor judge of whom to choose as advisors and poor at being able to properly sort out the information he was recieving from them, leading to poor decision-making.

    Comment by AP — September 5, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  21. @Mark,
    Genius post! But I’m afraid it will be lost on most of the commentators here…

    Comment by Sublime Progress — September 5, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  22. @Mark, S/O. We have a new standard in whataboutism. S/O, rkka, the rest: you have to raise your games.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — September 5, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  23. @ Tim, I didn’t claim that a high degree of intelligence was both necessary and sufficient to lead a country.

    I never implied that you did.

    Bush’s example seems to show that a high degree of intelligence is at least necessary.

    What I am arguing is that a high degree of intelligence is not necessary to run a country. As I said, I cannot think of any of Bush’s blunders which meant anything which were a result of his not being clever enough.

    Bush seems to have been a poor judge of whom to choose as advisors and poor at being able to properly sort out the information he was recieving from them, leading to poor decision-making.

    Right, but I don’t see this as being a result of a lack of intelligence.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 5, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  24. A high IQ basically means the person is very good at abstract thinking. And that is all it means. A high IQ does not mean the person is wise or has common sense. While this is a useful skill, leadership requires a lot of others. There are a lot of people with extremely high IQs that woudl make terrible leaders – the absent minded professor stereotypes. If Bush had an IQ in the top 5%, that is probably high enough. We have had great Presidents whose IQs were probably lower. FDR was described by Oliver Wendell Holmes as a second rate intellect, but first rate temperament. Obviously a second rate intellect is good enough provided you have other assets.

    Bush’s primary faults were due to his personality more than anything. He prized loyalty above all else, and he confused people who disagreed with him as being disloyal. That eliminated dissenting voices around him (either because he got rid of them, stopped listening to them, or they censored themselves). Like a lot of people, he didn’t like hearing people disagree with him, and ignored their warnings over those who agreed with his assessments (such as how many troops would be needed in Iraq after the invasion). He was prone to promote incompetent cronies than competent people outside his circle.

    He did not like doing any detail work, leaving that to others. While it was good he did not micromanage things, if an executive doesn’t like to do the detail work, then he needs a competent staff to do it for him – but promoting loyal cronies doesn’t do that. FDR didn’t like to do much detail work either, but he had highly capable people around him who did.

    And despite being someone who possesses a lot of emotional intelligence, he was an incredibly poor diplomat. He ignored the attitudes and concerns of other world leaders, and thereby generated resentment against him. That was just arrogance. He was prone to just make unilateral decisions without even consulting others. Even if he still decided to do what he wanted, he could have still done enough to make others think he considered their points of view and interests before acting.

    Comment by Chris Durnell — September 7, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  25. To Chris: Actually a subtest measuring “common sense” is a component of one of the most commonly used IQ tests, and I’m sure that studies show that wisdom, however it’s been operationally defined, has been correlated to IQ. I never suggested that intelligence is everything, surely it is not and because the correlation between “wisdom” and intelligence is not perfect there are exceptions. I simply stated that Bush didn’t have the intelligence for the job. Perhaps he could have compensated for his lack in other ways but obviously he did not do so. I doubt that, in terms of intelligence, 15 million Americans (the number who have Bush’s high estimated IQ of 125 or higher) are smart enough to lead the country, and indeed most other presidents have had substantially higher IQs (upper 130’s for Clinton, for example). I doubt that this is a coincidence. Bush’s low intelligence (for the position he was in) probably limited his ability to overcome the personality-driven mistakes you accurately described.

    Comment by AP — September 7, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  26. I think Chris Durrell’s explanation is far more accurate than the notion that Bush was not intelligent enough to be president. Like I’ve already pointed out, twice now: Bush managed to pilot the F-102, a notoriously difficult plane to fly which required extremely fast thinking and applying an awful lot of memorised information quickly and simultaneously. And I’m afraid I don’t believe that being a politician, even a president of the USA, requires higher intelligence than flying a complex aircraft like the F-102.

    Also, I’d like to see a link to any study which shows a correlation between intelligence and common sense. I’ve known incredibly intelligent people without a grain of common sense, and vice versa.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 7, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

  27. Well SO, I am pretty sure that Kudrin will only contribute further to Russia’s negative birth rate.

    And on that subject, here is another example of the terms “positive” & “negative” birth rates, ie the relationship of birth rates to deaths, (quite common in demographics) that you seem so unaware of:

    Estonia’s birth rate could become positive in 2009
    If current trends continue, Estonia could again become a country with positive birth rate next year.
    The last time that Estonia’s birth rate was positive was in 1990, writes Postimees.
    While in 1990 the birth rate was positive by about 5,000 people, it turned negative by 300 people already in 1991.
    The worst year was 1994 when the birth rate was negative by 8,000 people, but the trend started to slow down in 1999 and the year 2007 birth rate was negative by only 1,634 people.
    According to authorities, this year’s birth rate is likely to remain negative by about 400 people. By end of November, there had been 14,897 births and 15,369 deaths.
    Also Professor Ene-Margit Tiit agrees that the trend were the number of births is increasing and the number of deaths is falling is promising.
    “However, we should not forget that birth rate went up strongly during the economic boom. During recession, the number of deaths tends to increase, as a rule,” she explained.
    Tiit adds that because of economic difficulties, many young Estonian men and women could move to abroad in search of better life.

    http://www.balticbusinessnews.com/?PublicationId=efa64fc2-9cde-4f41-b0bd-b7c105202a8c

    So it looks like we can safely dismiss anything SO has to say on this subject (and pretty much everything else as well to be honest) as uneducated dogmatic left wing drivel.

    How is the popcorn SO?

    Comment by Andrew — September 8, 2010 @ 12:08 am

  28. Given that, as I pointed out, a subtest investigating common sense is part of the most commonly-used IQ test, the two are indeed linked. Not only is common-sense linked to overall IQ it is correlated with other factors making up intelligence. Yes, people who are better at “common sense” also tend to be better at recognizing patterns and tend to know more information. The link between common sense and intelligence is reflected in lower divorce rates as IQ goes up (they’re better able to find the right people and/or to solve problems within marriages), higher income for higher IQ people, etc. The idea of the socially inept, scatterbrained “nutty professor” who doesn’t know how to live is fun and probably makes for a nice consolation for people who aren’t as bright. Such people might also stand out quite a bit. But these anecdotes don’t disprove the general rule. Genial, smooth Bill Clinton had an IQ slightly higher than Al Gore’s and within the top 1% of the population and people like him are far more representative of high IQ people, generally. I know you can come up with individual counterexamples, because such correlations are not prefect. And to reiterate, if you recall my original point, it is not that high intelligence *alone* is sufficent for being a president – it plus other factors are clearly necessary. Clinton had those. Whatever positive qualities Bush did have (high emotional intelligence, for example), they were not enough to compensate for his lack of intelligence which led to poor decision making across numerous domains.

    I find it hard to agree with your idea that the specific skills necessary to fly an aircraft are transferable to leading a country – nothing against pilots but if that were the case then gifted videogamers would also be qualified intellectually to lead the country. Leading a country requires more intellectual skills than merely rote memorization and the ability to think fast with respect to visual stimuli (these are linked to IQ and part of it, hence Buish’s IQ in the 125 range is not surprising). Bush, the skilled pilot but failed president, would seem to disprove your point.

    Comment by AP — September 8, 2010 @ 8:08 am

  29. Given that, as I pointed out, a subtest investigating common sense is part of the most commonly-used IQ test, the two are indeed linked.

    Yes, and I said I’d like a link to a study which verifies this. I’m afraid I’m not merely going to take your word for it.

    I find it hard to agree with your idea that the specific skills necessary to fly an aircraft are transferable to leading a country – nothing against pilots but if that were the case then gifted videogamers would also be qualified intellectually to lead the country. Leading a country requires more intellectual skills than merely rote memorization and the ability to think fast with respect to visual stimuli (these are linked to IQ and part of it, hence Buish’s IQ in the 125 range is not surprising). Bush, the skilled pilot but failed president, would seem to disprove your point.

    My point is that leading a country does not require intelligence, but flying an F-102 does. Feel free to explain how my point is disproven.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 8, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

  30. Clinton had those. Whatever positive qualities Bush did have (high emotional intelligence, for example), they were not enough to compensate for his lack of intelligence which led to poor decision making across numerous domains.

    This only means anything if you take the subjective view that Clinton was a more successful president than Bush was. Given the hands each was dealt, I don’t take this to be a self-evident truth.

    Whatever positive qualities Bush did have (high emotional intelligence, for example), they were not enough to compensate for his lack of intelligence which led to poor decision making across numerous domains.

    And this is just stating on pure faith that Bush’s decisions were a result of low intelligence. If judgement is a sign of intelligence, where does that leave Clinton with his knob down Lewinsky’s throat?

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 8, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  31. If you look into the Wechsler intelligence scales you will see the Comprehension subtest which tests judgment and common sense – it is part of the test that determines the IQ score. I don’t have the manual on me but this scale is correlated somewhat with the other scales and is certainly corelated with IQ. Decision-making ability is often referred to as “executive functioning.” I’m not going to do a full lit review but here are two studies showing higher intelligence linked to better executive functioning:

    http://www.educacaocerebral.com/file.php/1/Cerebro_Executivo/The_relationship_of_intelligence_to_executive_function_and_non-executive_function_measures_in_a_sample_of_average_above_average_and_gifted_youth.pdf

    And:

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=893616

    Now, intelligence is positively correlated to wealth and negatively correlated to divorce. Are you suggesting that people lacking common sense are as likely to find the right spouse/maintain a relationship, and to earn more, than people who have common sense?

    As to your second point, do you seriously consider Clinton to have been a worse president than Bush? The different performances of Clinton, a very bright guy with personal issues, versus Bush, a dim (by presidential standards) guy with personal issues, seem to illustrate the importance of intelligence. One man had lapses in judgment (seemingly linked to one thing – a love of a certain type of woman) that he was able to overcome, the other one had poor judgment across several domains and was unable to overcome them. Your point seems to have been that Bush’s ability to fly an F-102 made him smart enough to be president. My point was that he may have been smart enough to fly an F-102, but he was not smart enough to be president.

    Comment by AP — September 8, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

  32. As to your second point, do you seriously consider Clinton to have been a worse president than Bush?

    I don’t think there is much in it, to be honest.

    The different performances of Clinton, a very bright guy with personal issues, versus Bush, a dim (by presidential standards) guy with personal issues, seem to illustrate the importance of intelligence.

    Apologies for repeating myself here, but this only means anything if you take the subjective view that Clinton was a more successful president than Bush was. I said earlier that I think intelligence hampers leadership in many cases: I find highly intelligent leaders or managers less able to assess a situation clearly and make firm decisions than their less intelligent counterparts. Clinton’s years were for me one of benign neglect and half-hearted foreign policy decisions which merely postponed many of the problems Bush was to face.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 8, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  33. I’m not going to do a full lit review but here are two studies showing higher intelligence linked to better executive functioning…

    But, alas, none linking intelligence with either common sense or the ability to judge character.

    Comment by Tim Newman — September 8, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  34. @SWP: “We have a new standard in whataboutism.”
    Here in the world of academia we refer to comparing apples with apples as comparative politics. But in the magical realm of Russophobia, I
    I understand they have their own range of arcane and reductionist terminology, sort of a secret language of words and phrases with loaded
    meanings, understandable and meaningful only to other members of their cult. To each their own.

    Comment by Mark Sleboda/the Scythian — September 9, 2010 @ 4:48 am

  35. I supplied you with the name of the scale that measure common sense this and the name of the test that includes that scale. Here is a link:

    http://www.iupui.edu/~flip/wechsler.html

    So, common sense is a part of intelligence. I don’t understand why you try to differentiate the two. Sure, there are some people who are generally intelligent but who lack specific aspects of intelligence (for some, common snese, for others, ability to recognize visual patterns), but these are all factors of “intelligence” and lopsides results within IQ are not typical.

    Decision-making ability is a precise term and I supplied you with two articles covering the link between intelligence and the ability to make decisions. “Character judgment” is reflected in divorce rates – here’s a study showing lower divorce rates as IQ goes up:

    http://jfi.sagepub.com/content/27/12/1723.abstract

    Here is an excerpt from Hernstein’s and Murray’s Bell Curve book showing the links betwen IQ and divorce:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=s4CKqxi6yWIC&pg=PA173&lpg=PA173&dq=intelligence+%22divorce%22+murray&source=bl&ots=g8D3b0vfD8&sig=KAbbWQ8DRnvj1DOD9CvLpfQUhN4&hl=en&ei=UteITJmeB8H-8Abf4rmEBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Among those whose IQ is in the top 5% the divorce rate is 10% while among those whose IQs are in the bottom 75% the divorce rate is approximately 30% in the first 5 years of marriage.

    Being able to choose the right spouse is probably an indicator of good character judgment, no?

    But let me turn this around: since we know that intelligence is linked to better ability to make decisions, better ability to analyse information, better ability to recognise and see patterns, etc. what evidence do you have that intelligence and character judgment are NOT related? No anecdotes, sorry – everyone can find exceptions – I know someone who died in their 90’s who smoked a pack of cigarettes his whole life, that doesn’t mean smoking and early death from cancer aren’t linked. To repeat myself, the evidence shows that highly intelligent people are better decision-makers than are less intelligent people. Your contrary observations seem to be either isolated incidents, or mistaken evaluations of the intelligence of the managers whom you observed.

    Comment by AP — September 9, 2010 @ 8:12 am

  36. Here in the world of academia…

    Are you by any chance this dude?

    Comment by peter — September 9, 2010 @ 9:15 am

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